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How to Choose the Best Style of Mountain Bike For You

What Type of Mountain Bike Should I Buy?

With so many different types of mountain bikes to choose from it can be a bit mind-boggling when choosing the best style for you. There isn’t really one style that suits all, but with so many great options to choose from you can be sure you’ll find a bike that hits the sweet spot and is perfect for your size, experience and the way you want to ride. Here is our guide to choosing your next off-roading sidekick...



Good for: Cross Country and Trail Riding (Blues / Easy Reds)

Price Range: £350 - £2200 

If you love exploring the countryside or shredding the trails at your local country park, a hardtail mountain bike could be just the trailblazer you’ve been looking for. Hardtail mountain bikes only have suspension on the front fork so they will attack brutal climbs with gusto whilst smoothing out gravely or well groomed trails on the descents. They won’t perform as well as a full suspension bikes on more technical declines or big rocky features, but with fewer moving parts, they are cheaper, more durable and easier to maintain. Lower end hardtails are perfect for beginner riders wanting to learn fundamental off road riding skills. They are also good as an introduction to trail riding and a stepping stone to hitting bigger features on a full suspension bike later. High end hardtails feature robust, lightweight frames and top spec drivetrains for impressive climbing performance.




Good for: Trail | All Mountain | Enduro | Downhill (DH) | Bike Park

Price Range: £1500 - £6500


Hurtle downhill at speed, corner berms with confidence and pop over table tops with a full suspension mountain bike. With suspension on both the front and rear of the bike, full suspension mountain bikes are designed to take a hammering downhill and make riding over rocky, rough terrain smoother and faster, absorbing knocks and bumps as you hop and fly downhill. Pedalling uphill will be harder than on a hardtail so you’ll have to sacrifice a bit of speed on the climbs, but you’ll be smiling from ear to ear on your way back down. That said, some full suspension mountain bikes do feature lock out dials so you can reduce the amount of bounce and conserve some energy to make the hills a bit easier.

Full suspension mountain bikes are a bit more complicated than hardtails with more components that require extra care and maintenance, but with a plethora of high tech affordable parts now on the market, full suspension mountain bikes are becoming more and more popular. There are also different types of full suspension mountain bikes with varying travel options and geometry to suit trail, enduro and downhill disciplines so make sure you choose the right setup for your local trails. 




Which Mountain Bike Wheel Size is Best?

Once you've decided whether to ride a hardtail or full suspension mountain bike you will also have the choice of several wheel sizes...




The 26 inch wheel was once the traditional mountain bike wheel size but these have been gradually phased out for larger wheels. You will now only find 26 inch wheels on secondhand bikes.


650b/ 27.5" WHEELS

Very versatile and suited to lots of off-road riding styles including XC, Trail, Enduro and Downhill mountain biking, 650b or 27.5 inch wheels are super nimble and they will help you to quickly hop and glide over trail obstacles. They are also good for smaller riders who might struggle with the larger 29er wheels.


29er/ 29" WHEELS

Very popular amongst XC riders, 29er wheels carry more momentum and will roll over rough terrain with ease. Smaller riders may struggle a bit with acceleration and they are less agile on twisty singletrack, but you’ll benefit from less rolling resistance and more speed once you get going. 




Other Things to Consider...



Getting the right mountain bike suspension for your weight and riding style can mean the difference between a nice smooth flowing ride or being bounced around the trail like a loose pinball. So, take time to find the best setup for you. Whether you have coils or air in your front or rear suspension, most good quality forks and shocks will allow you to adjust the compression and rebound settings. Entry level suspension systems will be heavier and a bit stiffer where-as the better quality suspension setups will be plush and lighter in weight. Some models also have the option to lock the suspension out so you can climb hills with less compression, saving energy and making your pedalling more efficient. You can then turn the suspension on again for a grin inducing descent! 




Most entry level mountain bikes will have aluminium frames which are strong, robust and easy to maintain. Moving up through the levels, you will see full noise high end bikes with carbon frames for minimum weight and maximum stiffness. The frame is at the heart of your bike so if you are on a budget, try to get the best frame that you can. If this means that you have a good frame with slightly lower range components, you can make plans to upgrade the components as they wear out over time.




Getting the right sized frame for your height is essential to enjoying your time on the bike. A bike that is too large might make you feel stretched and unwieldy and a bike that is too small will feel cramped and sketchy at speed. Mountain bike geometry will vary between sizes as well as across different brands so take time to research the different options and get the right bike fit. There are recommended size guides for each manufacturer but nothing beats getting on a bike and trying it for size, so pop in to see us and our in store cycling gurus will help you to find the right sized frame, handlebars and wheels to fit your intended riding perfectly.




Mountain biking gear ratios will vary according to each individual bike. Many of the entry level mountain bikes will offer two or three front chainrings to help you cover lots of different terrain where-as the top end bikes tend to have fewer gears with one chainring on the front and an 11 or 12 speed cassette on the back. This simplifies the setup, saves weight and allows more space for clearance and frame optimisation.




Want More Advice on Mountain Bikes? We're Here to Help

If you still feel a bit overwhelmed by all of the choice on offer and want some extra advice, we’re here to help. Pop into one of our Cycling Surgery stores to speak with one of our expert mountain biking gurus who will be more than happy to help you. With a passion for cycling ourselves, we can help you to find the best type of mountain bike to ensure you have lots of fun on the trails. We have a huge selection of high quality mountain bikes to choose from and try for size so we look forward to seeing you.


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